Alabama Basketball, like every other SEC team except Mississippi State, has finished two-thirds of its SEC season. Also at 25 games into all of its regular season, questions linger about the Crimson Tide’s post-season prospects.
It is not hard for Crimson Tide fans to see weaknesses. An explosion of turnovers almost cost the Tide a win against Arkansas. Three-point shooting, with occasional exceptions, has been more miss than hit.
Nate Oats sees it all – and more. At this point in a season, flaws are difficult to eradicate. A coach has to consider each game’s matchups and juggle the roster and substitution pattern, not just for best potential results – but to minimize weaknesses. Making it harder for Oats are player inconsistencies. He can’t always know what to expect from player performances.
With the challenges, there have been encouraging signs. Player development is working with Charles Bediako and Jusaun Holt. Many Tide players are scrappy warriors. When good looks are available, Jaden Shackelford is an outstanding shooter. Role players like Juwan Gary and, against Arkansas, Noah Gurley have stepped up and made differences in games.
Alabama is still the team that can beat anyone. It is also a team that can lose to anyone. Those dualities make post-season prospects both exciting and scary.
If the SEC Tournament started today, the Crimson Tide would be tied with Florida and LSU for the No. 5 seed. From games so far, the tiebreaker would go to the Crimson Tide. That would mean an opening SEC Tournament game on Thursday, against the Wednesday, Mar. 9 winner of Ole Miss and Texas A&M. With a win, the Tide would advance to Friday against Arkansas.
Short of a surprising run that produces another SEC Tournament Championship, the games in Tampa will have little impact on NCAA Tournament seeding. The Crimson Tide is a solid 5-seed now. After the Arkansas win, there is little chance it drops below a 7-seed, at the worst, the Tide goes ‘Dancin’ as an 8-seed.
From another perspective, the next six regular-season games and the SEC Tournament matter much. Nate Oats’ team needs some confidence-building momentum. After so much success in so many big games, getting bumped from the NCAA Tournament in the first round would be a major disappointment.
How will Alabama Basketball close the regular season?
Checking some top algorithms, of the Tide’s next six games, two will be as a solid favorite and two more will be as a slight favorite. In the other two games, the computer models don’t give the Tide much of a chance in Lexington or Baton Rouge.
Both of those opponents have been hampered by injury problems. It is just a hunch, but even against a healthy LSU, the Tide can win on the road. That hunch is fueled by another hunch, that Nate Oats – really does not like Will Wade. That being the correct response to Wade, it might pump up Nate’s players as well.
LSU has the easiest closing schedule, while Florida and Arkansas probably have the toughest. It is hard to predict the Crimson Tide. It could finish with two more regular-season wins, or three, or four, and maybe even five.
Current SEC Standings, as of games through Feb. 12
Next for the Crimson Tide is Wednesday at home against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. It should be a Tide win.